So, we asked Dr. Jeanine Downie, a New Jersey-based dermatologist, morning show regular, and co-author author of Beautiful Skin of Color: A Comprehensive Guide to Asian, Olive, and Dark Skin, to give us the scoop on why sun protection is important for all women, regardless of race. She also provided us with pointers on how to start incorporating SPF into your daily routines, and which new, effective, in-office procedures are out there to specifically correct pre-exisiting DNA damage for women with darker skin. Here's what she said:
How the Sun Affects Your Looks:
"The most important reason for vigilant sun protection is preventing cancer, but some people are more motivated by the cosmetic changes that sun damage can cause," explains Downie.
Your pores will get bigger. "People think that pore size is genetic," says Downie. "It's not. Over time, the pores of people who tan a lot will hypertrophy and increase in width, creating a rough, patchy texture to the skin."
Your other skin conditions will get worse. "The sun can irritate skin conditions like eczema, melasma, vitiliago, and even acne," she explains. "This can cause tone changes that range from hyperpigmenation to scarring."
Get ready for wrinkles. Of UVB rays and UVA rays, it's the latter that cause premature aging of the skin. And, contrary to popular belief, women who have more melanin in their skin are not immune to their effects.
Easy, Everyday Sun Care Tips:
"Making just a few changes to your daily routine can make a big difference down the road for your looks and health," notes Downie. "But no one is immune to skin cancer, so no matter how careful you are, if you notice a mole or mark that looks suspicious, see your doctor immediately."
Slather up. "Rain or shine, apply sunscreen every day," advises Downie. "My darker-skinned patients think they're automatically protected, and they're not. They need to apply an SPF of at least 30 in the morning and then again throughout the day."
Don't rely on tinted moisturizers. "Remember that foundations and tinted moisturizers with SPF are makeup," Downie explains. "Meaning that you apply it heavier to some areas and lighter to others." For full sun protection, use a mattifying, oil-free sunscreen underneath any face makeup.
See your dermatologist annually. "Just don't be burned when you come! In order to best analyze your skin, doctors need to see your skin as close as possible to its natural tone," explains Downie. "This will allow her to get a better look at any abnormalities."
Spray your feet! And your ears, nose, back, shoulders, and knees. "People get accidentally burned in these places most often, because this is where the sun is hitting them when they go outside for lunch," says Downie. Keep a spray sun block at your desk and apply it to these spots 30 minutes before escaping your cubicle for lunch.
And keep sunblock in the car. "The biggest hurdle to applying sunblock regularly is overcoming behavioral barriers," adds Downie. "Keep face and body block in your car so that you have it handy whenever you feel the need for application. Over time you'll just get accustomed to reapplying frequently."
Don't rationalize tanning with a need for Vitamin D. "Vitamin D deficiencies have been a hot topic in the dermatology world," she explains. "And some people think that if they're deficient, they have license to sit in the sun, but one person dies from melanoma every 62 minutes. You should be able to get the Vitamin D daily intake you need from oral supplements and eating well."
Treatments to Try:
If you have started to notice changes in your skin that you think can be attributed to DNA damage (wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, dull skin, etc.), see your dermatologist about in-office procedures. Some are more invasive than others, so research your options before getting in the chair. Dr. Downie has highlighted a few of her favorites for women of color.
Theraplex peels. "Chemical peels are among the least intensive options for fixing damage done by sun exposure," says Downie. "I like the Theraplex peel that is 25 % salicylic acid and contains lactic acid and Resveratrol for gentle exfoliation. Plus, this peel is safe for all skin tones and has no downtime."
Fraxel Re:Store laser. "This resurfacing laser works on skin types ranging from the lightest of the light to the darkest of the dark and helps with deeper pigmentory issues, including acne," notes Downie. "People are usually able to return to work the next day, which is incredible considering that it can diminish the signs of crows feet, age spots, melasma, and precancerous lesions."
Allumera. "This is the first photodynamic cream that can even out skin tone and improve texture," advises Downie. "You need to avoid the sun for two days after having the cream applied by your doctor, so plan accordingly. When it comes to pigmentation issues, I find that my patients are willing to undergo more involved treatments to fix their problems faster."